August 3, 2022
Artist Sharif Bey facilities his apply round recontextualizing, a course of he undertakes by fracturing long-held views through fragments. His figurative sculptures unify disparate supplies and broad cultural references throughout generations and eras—his works are notably undated—drawing on each the aesthetics of West-Central Africa, notably the religious protectors often called nkisi, and the industrial histories of his household and present metropolis of Syracuse.
Largely crafted round bits of his personal ceramic vessels, Bey’s works are on view at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum in a solo exhibition titled Colonial Ruptures, which questions the inherent worth and energy of objects, notably as they’re stripped from their authentic cultures through colonial violence and structural racism. Bowed nails and rusted spikes evoke the artist’s familial ties to boiler making, a occupation the present’s curator Sequoia Miller connects to the limitations of work for Black males in the 1960s: “It was one of the few ways that African American families could move into the middle class. [Bey is] thinking about his connection this whole lineage of labor, of production, of middle-class identity, and linking it to African American identity, [to] access to African cultural resources.”
Bey pairs these corroded metals with bits of shattered pottery and a reconstructed medley of his earlier sculptures, which he’s damaged and repositioned into new figures. His expressive, earthenware faces usually function a crack through an eye fixed or cheek, whereas aura-like rings of discovered scraps encircle their glorified types. Each piece is deeply rooted in its authentic contexts and but open-ended in the questions it suggests, a pairing the artist expands on in an announcement about the exhibition:
I’m impressed by folklore, useful pottery, modernism, pure historical past, and a lifelong affinity for West African and Oceanic sculpture. My works examine the symbolic and formal properties of archetypal motifs, questioning how the meanings of icons, objects, and features rework throughout cultures and over time.
In addition to Colonial Ruptures, which is on view through August 28, a broad survey of Bey’s works can be up through August 14 at the Everson Museum. You can discover extra of his sculptures on his site and Instagram.
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